Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser used a committee session in Parliament on Wednesday to criticise a raft of politicians and officials for their reaction to the emerging pandemic in early 2020, and told chaotic stories about the scenes in Number 10 as plans were drawn up to fight Covid-19.
Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson was “about a thousand times too obsessed with the media in a way that undermines his own job,” so he had decided to undergo “unauthorised” conversations with Ms Kuenssberg to keep her abreast of the latest developments.
The former Downing Street strategist said he spent “less than one per cent” of an average 100-hour week talking to journalists.
“The main person really though that I spoke to in the whole of 2020 was Laura Kuenssberg at the BBC, because the BBC has a special position in the country, obviously during a crisis,” he told a joint meeting of the science and technology and health committees in Parliament.
“Because I was in the room for certain crucial things, I could give guidance to her on certain very big stories.”
One such story in March 2020 was a report that the Government had deployed tanks on the M25 motorway to seal off London from the rest of the world, he said.
“Laura Kuenssberg called me and said: ‘This story is happening. Is it true?’
“I said: ‘I can categorically tell you, it is definitely not true.
“‘You should definitely not report it. I absolutely 100 per cent guarantee it.’”
Mr Cummings said he only spoke to Ms Kuenssberg around every three or four weeks to brief her on the key details of major news events.
He said his approach of going directly to the most senior political journalist at the national broadcaster “drove the media mad” because reporters were used to having access to senior Downing Street advisers working under previous prime ministers.
But Mr Cummings also told MPs he would not commit to publishing all of his communications with journalists, as it would be a “a very, very serious change to how things are done in this country,” and most were phone calls rather than text messages.
Asked by the science and technology committee chair, Greg Clark, whether he would allow MPs to decide which messages they would like to see, Mr Cummings said he would “look back” at texts and share “anything which I think has a direct bearing on decisions that were made and mistakes that were made”.